– U.S. Government Reinstates Arm Sales to Bahrain Despite Rampant Human Rights Abuses (Liberty Blitzkrieg, July 21, 2015):
One of the many destructive myths Americans like to tell themselves is that the U.S. government is a staunch defender of human rights and democracy around the world. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
Yes its true, there are plenty of well intentioned individuals and organizations across America that do care very deeply about such things; the U.S. government just isn’t one of them. The facts on the ground clearly prove this to be the case. The only thing those in charge care about is raw imperial power and money. Of course, they know this. They also know that keeping the myth alive is extremely important in order to maintain the moral high ground and some degree of legitimacy in the eyes of the public.
The most recent example of what a sham the government’s purported commitment to human rights is, was last week’s revelation that the State Department may be prepared to upgrade Malaysia’s trafficking in persons ranking just to move the TPP forward. Here’s an excerpt from the post, To Pass TPP, U.S. State Dept. Upgrades Malaysia’s Human Trafficking Ranking Despite Discovery of Mass Graves:
Earlier this week, we wrote about a troubling move by the US State Department to “upgrade” Malaysia from a “tier 3? country to a “tier 2? country regarding human trafficking. This move came despite a near total lack of evidence of any improvement by Malaysia. In fact, just two months ago 139 mass graves were discovered for migrant workers who had been trafficked and/or held for ransom. And the US ambassador to Malaysia had publicly criticized the country for failing to tackle its massive human trafficking problem.
Today, we learn about how the U.S. government has reinstated arm sales to Bahrain despite horrific human rights abuses. From International Business Times:
“The government of Bahrain has made some meaningful progress on human rights reform and reconciliation.”
With this flexible formulation, the US justified the decision to lift the hold on arms transfers to the Bahrain Defence Force and National Guard, which had been in a place in an effort to pressure the Bahraini regime to reform its violent tactics towards protesters.
But even as State Department employees were drafting and editing the arms-release statement, the government of Bahrain was disabusing the Obama Administration of the notion that it had the slightest interest in human rights protections and political reconciliation.
Two weeks before the decision, a court sentenced Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the opposition society al-Wefaq, to four years in prison for “inciting hatred” and “insulting public institutions” charges which Amnesty International dismissed outright. The day before the U.S. dropped its hold, the government sentenced another opposition leader, Fadhel Abbas, to five years in prison for tweeting his condemnation of the war in Yemen.
Not three days after the statement, authorities arrested Majeed Milad, another participant in the erstwhile National Dialogue, on charges of “instigating hatred of the regime.” Lest a casual observer think this to be all party politics, Nabeel Rajab, the prominent nonviolent and nonpartisan human rights defender, was only just released for unspecified “health reasons” after languishing in prison since 2 April. Authorities also targeted him for unwelcome criticism of the Yemeni conflict.
This, even as the State Department declared that Bahraini officials were “contribut[ing] to an environment more conducive to reconciliation and progress.”
The unkindest cut of all for the State Department, however, came on June 11, when the Bahrain Interior Ministry arrested Ebrahim Sharif. On that day, authorities arrested the former leader of the secular opposition society Wa’ad (“Promise”), for “incitement to overthrow the government”.
As evidence, officials cited a twenty-minute speech Sharif had delivered on 10 July. An examination of Sharif’s words reveals nothing in the way of incitement or coup-plotting, but rather the nonviolent dissidence to which the members of Bahrain’s democratic movement have held for years.
Well at least they aren’t abusing American citizens or anything. Oh, wait.
Nevermind that “prisoners,” plural, was a misnomer, that human rights activists like Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Naji Fateel are still imprisoned. Nevermind that American citizen Taqi al-Maidan remains behind bars, suffering torture and maltreatment on unsubstantiated charges.
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